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The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019 received Royal Assent in October 2019.

The Act creates the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body, which will have responsibility for the restoration of the Palace of Westminster. The Sponsor Body, which had operated in shadow form from July 2018, was established substantively on 8 April 2020, six months after Royal Assent.

The Sponsor Body will propose an Outline Business Case (OBC) for Restoration and Renewal, to be voted on and agreed by both Houses of Parliament, before the building works can begin. The target date for delivering the detailed and costed plan to both Houses of Parliament is “as early as possible in 2023“.

Under the Act, the Sponsor Body is required to form a company limited by guarantee to formulate proposals relating to Palace restoration works and to carry out the Parliamentary building works in line with the requirements of the Sponsor Body. It will “procure and manage the contractors and supply chain”.

The Board of the Sponsor Body agreed to incorporate the Delivery Authority at its inaugural meeting on 8 April 2020.

On 24 April 2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) published Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal Programme, a review of the Restoration and Renewal Programme. The review was based on work carried out between January and March 2020 (whilst the Sponsor Body was still in shadow form).

The NAO expected “an outline business case planned to be ready in autumn 2021, and approval from Parliament expected to follow in 2022” but it noted that “Future dates may change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing at the time of this report”.

Strategic Review

On 19 May 2020, the Sponsor Body announced that it would “review options for how the restoration programme should be carried out, including new ways of working developed in response to the health crisis caused by Covid-19”.

The Strategic Review was published on 11 March 2021. A written statement on the same day noted that:

The review sets out clear proposed objectives for the restoration and the need for clearer governance and closer working with Parliament. Supported by the Delivery Authority, the Sponsor Body will continue to develop the detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan that will for the first time give an accurate sense of the costs, timescales and full detail of the work needed. The detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan will be put before both Houses for a decision before the Parliamentary building works can commence.

Maintaining a continued presence in the Palace of Westminster

Following the publication of the Strategic Review, the House of Commons Commission considered the question of a continued presence during R&R. Its minutes recorded that:

The Commission approved the requirements for maintaining a continued presence in the Palace of Westminster, during Restoration and Renewal, which will form part of the Sponsor Body’s outline business case work.

In its annual report, the Sponsor Body confirmed that it was exploring how a continued presence could be maintained.

The House of Commons Commission received an interim update on the Continued Presence Study at its meeting on 6 September 2021. The Commission noted that two scenarios were in development. It also took note of “the early findings and associated key risks and issues identified for the interim update”.

In a discussion on the Sponsor Body Progress Report at its June 2021 Board Meeting, it was noted that the “continued presence remained a big risk for the Programme”. In a discussion on the Programme’s Schedule, the minutes recorded that:

The absence of an approved decant strategy for the House of Commons presented a significant challenge for the Programme. This would be required withing the next six months.

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